Oh the laying of hands & the softest wind of the Holy spirit, soft & secret, breathe of the Live God upon my life upon the time of my life, just knowing this, is healing, know this temporary lens of a final sight to behold and upon my own sons likewise may they know this breathe, this wind this voice, I pray to bequeath them this same voice and promise for it is for us, for us, & those who mock and scorn do not see the wind blow gently through the aspen, or zephyr-like move across my brow in an empty room, I know the talking of the grass the lovely trumpet of the night-hawk, the doves at my bird feeder,& while those are reminders they themselves are not this wholly Other & while these who nay say and mock and squander the life the Giver-Creator-Father God gave them the same & are only dry rocks rolling off the road bed & we fogive them as the roll past, some of them bouncing off & while the road ahead sure and passable is a direct way to Him who guides us this far, long and hard but sure and good, He is leading those of us who do not see toward sure goodness mercy and love, oh hallowed be His name, sending the healing coming, like His Kingdom coming our way there is a sureness to it, as every day has pain, this will not always be so. On earth as it is in Heaven. In the precious name of Jesus, amen selah
In the cool darkness of the spring night the priest and his ministers gather outside the door of the empty Church. The “new fire,” struck from flint, is enkindled and blessed. From this new fire the Paschal Candle will be lit. The marvelous Exsultet will then be sung, proclaiming the full meaning of the Easter mystery. Flame will be taken from the great candle, and multiplied throughout the building in all the different hanging lamps, and on the altar candles. As Mass is being prepared, “prophecies” will be chanted from various books of the Old Testament, showing how the types and figures hidden in the obscurity of the Old Law, have been brought to light in the glory of the resurrection. Each prophecy kindles a mystical light in the listening Church. This is a feast of light, a feast of life, celebrating not merely a past event but the present existential reality of the redemptive fact by which Christ communicates His life to us and unites us to Himself in one spirit.
Animate and inanimate creation join with the Church in her feast. Not only men are present to solemnize the mystery, but angelic spirits join with them in the liturgical celebration. The texts that are chanted, the prayers and blessings, are the richest in the liturgical year. They are a compendium of theology—theology not merely studied, not merely meditated, but lived. Through the medium of the liturgy, the Word Himself, uncreated Truth, enters into our spirits and becomes our theology. The first voice that speaks in the silent night is the cold flint. Out of the flint springs fire. The fire, making no sound, is the most eloquent preacher on this night that calls for no other sermon than liturgical action and mystery. That spark should spring from cold rock, reminds us that the strength, the life of God, is always deeply buried in the substance
The light that leaps out of darkness, the fire that comes from stone, symbolizes Christ’s conquest of death. He, Who is the source of all life, could never remain in death, could not see corruption. Death is not a reality, but the absence of a reality. And in Him there is nothing unreal. The fire that springs from the stone speaks, then, of His reality springing from the alienated coldness of our dead hearts, of our souls that have forgotten themselves, that have been exiled from themselves and from their God—and have lost their way in death. But there is nothing lost that God cannot find again. Nothing dead that cannot live again in the presence of His Spirit. No heart so dark, so hopeless, that it cannot be enlightened and brought back to itself, warmed back to the life of charity.
In the old days, on Easter night, the Russian peasants used to carry the blest fire home from Church. The light would scatter and travel in all directions through the darkness, and the desolation of the night would be pierced and dispelled as lamps came on in the windows of the farmhouses one by one. Even so the glory of God sleeps everywhere, ready to blaze out unexpectedly in created things. Even so His peace and His order lie hidden in the world, even the world of today, ready to reestablish themselves in His way, in His own good time: but never without the instrumentality of free options made by free men.
Merton, Thomas (1999-11-29). The New Man (Kindle Locations 2190-2215). Macmillan. Kindle Edition.
Now the writers of the Bible were aware that they shared with other religions the cosmic symbols in which God has revealed Himself to all men. But they were also aware that pagan and idolatrous religions had corrupted this symbolism and perverted its original purity [Merton cites Romans 1:18 and 25] The Gentiles had “detained the truth of God in injustice” and “changed the truth of God into a lie.”
Creation had been given to man as a clean window through which the light of God could shine into men’s souls. Sun and moon, night and day, rain, the sea, the crops, the flowering tree, all these things were transparent. They spoke to man not of themselves only but of Him who made them. Nature was symbolic. But the progressive degradation of man after the fall led the Gentiles further and further from this truth. Nature became opaque. The nations were no longer able to penetrate the meaning of the world they lived in. Instead of seeing the sun a witness to the power of God they thought the sun was god. The whole universe became an enclosed system of myths. The meaning and the worth of creatures invested them with an illusory divinity.
Men still sensed that there was something to be venerated in the reality, in the peculiarity of living and growing things, but they no longer knew what that reality was. They became incapable of seeing that the goodness of the creature is only a vestige of God. Darkness settled upon the translucent universe. Men became afraid. Beings had a meaning which men could no longer understand. They became afraid of trees, of the sun, of the sea. These things had to be approached with superstitious rites. It began to seem that the mystery of their meaning, which had become hidden, was now a power that had to be placated and, if possible controlled with magic incantations.
Thus the beautiful living things which were all about us on this earth and which were the windows of heaven to every man, became infected with original sin. The world fell with man, and longs, with man, for regeneration. The symbolic universe, which had now become a labyrinth of myths and magic rites, the dwelling place of a million hostile spirits, ceased altogether to speak to most men of God and told them only of themselves. The symbols which would have raised man above himself to God now became myths, and as such they were simply projections of man’s own biological drives. His deepest appetites, now full of shame, became his darkest fears.
The corruption of cosmic symbolism can be understood by a simple comparison. It was like what happens to a window when a room ceases to receive light from the outside. As long as it is daylight, we see through our windowpane. When night comes, we can still see through it if there is no light inside our room. When our lights go on, then we see only ourselves and our own room reflected in the pane. Adam in Eden could see through creation as through a window. God shone through the windowpane as bright as the light of the sun. Abraham and the patriarchs and David and the holy men of Israel—the chosen race that preserved intact the testimony of God—could still see through the window as one looks out by night from a darkened room and sees the moon and stars. But the Gentiles had begun to forget the sky, and to light lamps of their own, and presently it seemed to them that the reflection of their own room in the window was the “world beyond.” They began to worship what they themselves were doing. And what they were doing was too often an abomination. Nevertheless, something of the original purity of natural revelation remained in the great religions for the East. It is found in the Upanishads in the Baghavad Gita. But the pessimism of Buddha was a reaction against the degeneration of nature by polytheism. Henceforth for the mysticism of the East, nature would no longer be symbol but illusion. Buddha knew too well that the reflections in the window were only projections of our own existence and our own desires, but did not know that this was a window and that there could be sunlight outside the glass.
from “Poetry, Symbolism, and Typology,” The Literary Essays of Thomas Merton, pp 333-335, New Directions 1985. Originally from Merton’s Bread in the Wilderness, a study of the Psalms of the Old Testament as poetry, New Directions, 1953
The big dog greyhound
just left going south
& the cops picked up
an eighty-five year
old escapee from a rest
home, it’s twelve o’clock
almost a full moon & the
wind whips waves some-
where in the north Atlantic
sea, there’s three nickels
on this bar & my wife,
your smile this night is
worth a sun tan in the Fiji
islands or love after this
barstool is one hour up
turned & the old janitor
sweeps the floor while
most of this town sleeps
and the greyhound whines
twenty inch tires still
four hours from San Francisco